Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tanja Softic's Sensual Trans-Global Migrations

The good people at University of Richmond have a treasure in their midst; that being the artist Tanja Softic. I recently came across Ms. Softic’s work and I stopped, and looked at it utterly transfixed. It arrested my attention from whatever else usually grabs at me, and I stayed looking at it for some time. Her work has the power to stop the viewer in their tracks. It is as powerful as the work of 19th century Japanese landscape printmakers, the monoprints produced by James McNeill Whistler, and its possesses the same lyricism of Walter Joseph Phillips’ work.
Ms. Softic comes from eastern Europe and has lived in the US for some time. Her work migrates across 2D disciplines, but that technical virtuosity really isn’t what registers with the viewer. Her work possesses a sort of transformative quality. There is mystery, evocation of an earlier era, sensuality, softness, and a curious blend of scientific observation and reminiscence of some lost time and place. One could assume there is some longing for a past life in Europe which has been changed since the war in Bosnia, but it is also about an observation of nature, the simple, yet complex natural order of flowers, raindrops on a river, glistening morning dew clinging tenaciously onto a spider’s web, and a bird’s eye view passing over a landscape.
Softic’s sensitivity to her environment is what carries the image here. She immerses the viewer into a place an make them a part of what is happening. The blown up perspective of the images allows us to dive into the composition, swim around in it, slide along the loops and delicate linear paths to see what is inside, not look at the subject from afar. Her colors are soft, light, a breath of color, as though we see these places in a morning Impressionist-like haze.
At other times, the viewer is grounded, traipsing through underbrush walking through wooded areas, looking up at the clouds and birds in the sky. Whatever the perspective, we get a sense of the larger world, the space beyond what Softic captures onto paper. The work feels non-western, it feels infused with a sense of energy, but the energy is internal, pulsating through the paper - not merely ink sitting on top of it. She has an understanding of nature and its rhythms.
Softic's sense of place and displacement is subtle here, but it speaks about her own experience coming to another land far from her own. I am uplifted by this work, and invite you to look at it more closely. If Softic's observations are a part of her environment in Richmond, then Virginia should be a destination for us all to experience.
Awards:
First Prize, 5th Kochi International Triennial Exhibition of Prints, Ino-cho Paper Museum, Kochi, Japan
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellowship, Virginia Center for Creative Arts
National Endowment for the Arts/ Southern Arts Federation Visual Artist Fellowship
Pollock-Krasner Grant
Soros Foundation—Open Society Institute Exhibition Support Grant
Southern Arts Federation/National Endowment for the Arts

Collections:
Her work is included in numerous collections in the United States and abroad, including New York Public Library, Library of Congress Print Department and New South Wales Gallery of Art in Sydney, Australia.

Education:
B.F.A. Academy of Fine Arts of the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
M.F.A. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

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